7 April 2009

Spic and span

p.m. Tuesday 9th January 2007

Late afternoon, slump time, and yet I’m in full-swing nag. There just doesn’t seem to be any peace in my world at the moment! I’m trying to get the children to understand that they must put away toys, or crayons (broken or not),or furry pipe-cleaners, or tiny little round game counters which end up, like sand, between and under every piece of furniture, the exaggerated fallout of play. My words fall on deaf ears like the farmer’s seeds on the barren path in that biblical story. My frustration and exasperation mount. Tomorrow is our cleaning day, and like many mums I waste precious hours tidying up before our cleaner arrives, worried that if she spends her well-paid time gathering up clutter she’ll spend less time cleaning – or, maybe I’m just anal? I wonder, guiltily, if this is some sort of obsessive compulsiveness, but can’t help myself. Solution: a playroom the size of a small football field like Natalia’s, where toys look like specks of dust on a billiard table? Hmmm: not for us, sadly, at least not for the present (despite Martin’s overblown ambitions)and I'd probably still be on my hands and knees bulldozing lego into designer pastel drawers with novelty Alessi-style knobs.

But I count myself lucky: there was a time that merely the fact of my wanting to have a cleaner involved a depressing amount of negotiation. Martin once believed, in true male chauvinist pig tradition, that a wife is not a wife unless she does most of her own housework. He only agreed in the end when I pointed out that it was better to spend quality time with the kids than vacuum floors. And that you couldn't hear smashing glass or squealing fights over the booming of the hoover. For good measure, I threatened to tell my friends I’m the only wife whose husband is too mean to pay for a cleaner. After all, Martin can afford it. (My husband’s in the PR business, CEO, actually, of a company he co-founded five years ago, which seems to organise charity dinners for philanthropic City Financiers, Launch Balls for luxury brands, and probably a whole host of other less glamorous stuff I don’t hear about, so he earns well enough to afford all the trappings of good living. Not enough to move into the league of those he works for, and I sometimes wonder how frustrating that might be, always glamorizing the heavy-hitters but never being one of them. But that’s life, isn’t it? there’s always a hierarchy!)

Seeing as I've intermingled hierarchies and home help, here's another snippet from the private school gossip mill: the increasing tendency of some live-in nannies to 'try it on': having a TV in your room is one thing, your own car another(but apparently some employers will provide just that). And helping oneself to the drinks cabinet while on duty looking after the kids – someone chipped in with that little piece of personal experience, which was apparently forgiven (madness). Another nanny apparently did the laundry, sprayed it with rose-water and ironed it to perfection, waxed the sideboards as professionally as any French polisher, tossed up cordon bleu 5-course dinners in no time, and looked after the children, before eventually toppling the wife and kids in a messy divorce and moving in as lady of the house. True, so says a mum at school.

No risk of any such thing in our household. My cleaner is Belorussian and has a Masters degree in Economics - but Martin, far from giving her the eye, barely trusts her not to break his prized South African carvings. On her first visit he ordered her, on top of actually cleaning the whole house, to organise his shirts colour-coordinated in rows like some sort of ‘Dulux’ colour-card-sample; iron and neatly stack his underpants (I told her not to bother with the ironing bit); drop off and collect his dry-cleaning; and make sure the skirting boards are always free from dust.I tried to clarity that we’re not employing a housemaid, but he didn’t see the difference (“the help is the help, Helen, no more and no less”). Tanya has increasingly taken on a harried look since working for us, not surprisingly – and giving her cups of tea and my older handbags does nothing to help. Thing is, to work for Martin around the house, you’d really have to be Martha Stewart on speed. When Tanya broke Martin's precious daylight-mimicking bedside lamp cleaning under the bed and catching the wire in the Dyson, I asked a fellow mum for advice at lunchtime pick-up but she looked at me strangely. Her housemaid has insurance. Tanya doesn’t. So I told Martin I’d broken it myself, or he would have sacked her straight away.

4 comments:

Rob-bear said...

While many bloggers, particularly women, seem to tell their domestic stories with a cherry style and grace, you are well aware of the other "anomalies" of life.

One of the things that caught my attention was the snippet about cleaning up lego. Joanne at Reasons to be Cheerful, 1, 2, 3 broke her foot (probably) stepping on her son's lego, during a clean-up process.

When our grandchildren come for a visit, it's understood that they have to help clean up before they head home. Doesn't always work, but we keep trying it.

And, please pardon the effrontery, but Martin seems a bit much. Obviously a type-A personality (as I am) but seemingly not well-grounded in the real world of children, toys, and nappies. I'm tempted to suggest that applying a cricket bat to the side of his head might be a useful enterprise. (As an award-winning journalist, I tend to speak my mind pretty clearly.) I don't intend to offend, and if I have, I'm truly sorry: I'm simply sharing my puzzlement in this situation. Like a woman with a Master's degree in Economics reduced to cleaning houses.

The one major deficit in this process is that you have posted nothing by way of profile, so I don't really know the person to whom I'm writing. If you don't want to do that profiling publicly, that's fine; I believe you do have my e-mail address now.

I wish you peace and joy.

Helen Romeo said...

Hello and welcome, Rob bear, and thank you for your (valued, and ground-breaking: my first comment!) contribution! The reason the profile is blank is that, as you have noted, there is a certain wry satire in the way Helen views her life, the objectivity I gain from the fact that she is me and yet not me, just as I know Martin by another name. In the same context, this blog is being posted pre-dated as it was originally in true old-fashion diary form and has taken over two years (Yelp!) to be transposed. "Fraud!" I hear some suggest! But no, I'm hoping, just hoping that someone, somewhere might dip into Helen's (and my) little pots of human issues born of genuine emotion and experience (RE: marriage! education! wealth! desire! morality! etc.. read on!).... and throw in a humble 2 cents! So, please, do keep reading and do pass it on! Bless you!

Helen Romeo said...

And...thanks Rob-bear, I do try my best with the kids and tidying up (chocolate bribes always work, though I'd love to get them to understand the rationale for tidyness in the first place, broken legs being a major concern!). As for Martin, it would have to be his Calaway Big Bertha golf club rather than a cricket bat...

Rob-bear said...

Sorry to be a bit slow in replying, I can be a bit of a slow ol' bear at times.

Blogging is a kind of electronic version of the old fashioned "Dear Diary," except that it's a darn site more public (which necessitates some careful self-editing). But do have a go at it! You can always write a post, take a reflective look at it before actually publishing it, decide "this is unwashed tripe," and dispatch it to the electronic dustbin post haste. "Practice is everything," said the Greeks. And it doesn't cost anything, except the time you've invested in the learning/writing process.

And if the Calaway Big Bertha golf club is the appropriate tool for the task with "Martin," well, then, by all means.

Peace and joy!